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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Reprted from New York by Irith Jawetz, November 12, 2014


The United Nations Department of Public Information has opened UN doors to people interested in a panel discussion: “United Nations War Crimes Commission Records: Past, Present and Future” which took place on Tuesday, 11 November 2014,
at United Nations Headquarters, New York City.

The moderator was Ms. Edith M. LEDERER, United Nations Correspondent for the Associated Press. According to her Bio Edith M. Lederer has worked for AP on every continent except Antarctica covering wars, famines, nuclear issues and political upheavals. She was assigned full-time to the AP staff reporting the Vietnam War, and also covered the 1973 Middle East war, the war in Afghanistan, the first Gulf War, the conflict in Northern Ireland, the end of the war in Bosnia, the civil war in Somalia, and the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. She was also AP’s first female bureau chief overseas, based in Lima, Peru. In addition to wars, she helped cover the downfall of communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the Romanian revolution.

While based in London from 1982-98, Lederer also wrote about military and international security issues and global problems ranging from population growth to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Since 1998, she has been AP’s chief correspondent at the United Nations, reporting on the diplomatic side of conflicts in Libya, Syria,Iraq, Darfur, Kosovo, Congo and Sierra Leone and major global issues from the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea to climate change, combating poverty and women’s rights.

She is the recipient of numerous awards including the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is a co-author of “War Torn,” a book by nine women who covered the Vietnam War.

Opening remarks were given by:

Ms. Hua JIANG, Officer-in-Charge, Department of Public Information
H.E. Mr. Asoke Kumar MUKERJI, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations

Both discussed the background and the importance of the event by saying that the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) was operational between 1943 and 1948 and played a vital role in preparing the ground for the war crimes trials that followed the Second World War. The evidence was submitted by 17 member nations for evaluation so that war criminals could be arrested and prosecuted. The archive also contains records of trials carried out in various Member States and presented to the Commission, including national military tribunals and the Military Tribunal of the Far East (Tokyo Trials).

I would like to note that 1943 – the start of UNWCC preempts by two years the UN Charter and that the 17 member States of the original commission obviously all belonged to the circle of winners in WWII. Today, with the more general make upof the UN, when rogue Nations continue to be part of the UN, efficiency as described above has lost its edge.

The panelists included:

Mr. Adama DIENG, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide
Ms. Bridget SISK, Chief, United Nations Archives and Records Management Section
Mr. Patrick J. TREANOR, Former member of the Office of Special Investigations, the United States Department of Justice
Mr. Dan PLESCH, Director, The Center for Diplomatic Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS, University of London
Mr. Henry MAYER, Senior Adviser on Archives, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The panel brought up the content of these archival documents, their impact on the development of international law and the International Criminal Court, as well as their potential use by and value to students and academics. A full copy of the records of the Commission was provided to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in July of this year; they were not freely open to the public earlier. The event at the UN, was organized by The Holocaust Museum and the United Nations Outreach Program.

Mr. Dieng kept stressing the importance of the Commission as a lesson to future generations dealing with war crimes. He said time and again “Enough is Enough”, criminals must be brought to Justice. We have to learn from the past in order to better our future. Failure to hold war criminals accountable for their acts will ultimately bring down Society.

Mr. Treanor was investigating mainly Nazi war criminals while working for the US Department of Justice, and was involved in the case of former Secretary General of the UN Kurt Waldheim. He worked on dozens of cases but admitted that many war crimes were committed by local people and because of lack of information on those people it was not possible to bring them to Justice. Even in the Nazi German records names of officers who committed crimes were not fully revealed, sometimes only first name, no date of birth provided, which made the task very difficult, almost impossible.

Mr. Mayer, who is Senior Advisor of Archives at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC was grateful that the information is now available to the public at the Museum. He said that descendents of Holocaust victims will be able to access those documents. He said that not only Jews were persecuted during the Holocaust, there were many other groups such as gays, handicapped, political, and even Esperanto scholars. The last was acknowledged by a representative of an Esperanto organization in the audience who thanked Mr. Mayer for finally acknowledging this fact.

To summarize, the debate was mostly about the past, about events which happened more than 70 years ago. It is unclear and the question was asked, why those archives, which were established as early as 1943, while the UN itself officially dates to 1945, were closed to the public until this year. Mr. Meyer answered it is probably due to “beurocratic enertia”.

The meeting was about the Holocaust but during the Q & A session the attention moved to today’s ongoing war crimes. Most remarks were about war crimes committed nowadays in Darfur, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and many other countries. Since many countries do not allow outside observers, it is very difficult to collect the necessary information but Mr. Treanor and Mr. Dieng both admitted that it is possible. It is not easy, but there are ways to get information and Mr. Dieng stressed again that criminals must be brought to justice.

Mr. Mathew Lee from Inner City Press asked about crimes committed in Sri Lanka. He has been working on that subject for a long time now. He mentioned that the UN did not rate yet a true WCC for Sri Lanka and that there was a political cover up for those crimes and no real UN investigation. He could not get a substantial answer to his question from the panel.

This leads to a call for the need to have WCCs outside the UN as obviously the original Holocaust collecting information was done by 17 countries of allies fighting NAZI Germany while today’s UN is an amalgam that includes too many countries who are not interested in pursuing that subject.

For more information on the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Program that pursues this topic, please visit www.un.org or email  holocaustremembrance at un.org but most important – please also view internet info that does not come from UN sources alone in light of diminished freedoms that come with the larger membership that more then tripled since 1945.

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